Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

Arena Rises from Frozen Tundra

Snow and freezing weather didn't delay construction of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

By - Dec 16th, 2016 05:43 pm
Milwaukee Bucks' Arena District Development

Milwaukee Bucks’ Arena District Development

The massive Milwaukee Bucks arena complex is rising out of the ground at the corner of N. 6th St. and W. Juneau Ave. When we last visited in early October only the Milwaukee Bucks training facility was above ground, but now the arena itself and parking garage are clearly coming together. The October article featured photos from the roof of the 4th and Highland Parking Garage, but as our photos show much of that garage has now been demolished to make way for the Live Block entertainment component. Fear not, our photos today still catch a number of great aerial views of the massive project.

While under construction the complex of buildings is collectively known as the Milwaukee Electric Tool Construction Zone, likely the first construction site with a naming rights sponsor in Wisconsin history. Come 2018, if not before, another naming rights sponsor will step be announced for the arena itself, which is today officially known as the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center. The 714,000 square-foot arena will include an estimated 17,500 seats.

The Bucks have already landed a partnership for the training facility and an attached clinic. The $30 million team training facility at 1227 N. 6th St. will be known as the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center, reflecting a unique partnership between team doctors, Froedtert and MCW that intends to provide better care to team players and improve player performance. Attached to the facility will be a 37,000 square-foot, $10 million public health clinic at 1247 N. 6th St. known as the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin McKinley Health Center. The health center will offer primary and select specialty care. Those facilities will open in 2017 and our photos capture them much closer to completion than everything else in the complex.

Design work on the complex is being led by Kansas City-based Populous, with assistance from Eppstein Uhen Architects and HNTB. The Live Block entertainment facility, not yet under construction, is expected to receive final design approval from the city in January. Design on that project is being led by Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture in partnership with Chicago-based design firm Gensler (see: Bucks Live Block is a Slam Dunk).

Despite the cold weather and impending snow, crews from project general contractor Mortenson Construction and a host of sub-contractors were crawling all over the site Friday morning. ICON Venue Group is managing the project for the Bucks.


Arena Costs and Timeline

The arena and parking structure have an estimated cost of $524 million, which includes the $38.1 million, 1,243 stall parking garage. The City of Milwaukee is contributing $35 million in tax-incremental financing for the parking garage and an additional $12 million to finance a public plaza to the east of the arena. The Bucks are leveraging an additional $8 million via a developer-financed tax-incremental financing district to fund the garage. The state and county, primarily via the Wisconsin Center District, will kick in a combined $203 million, excluding interest, via a number of sources including a ticket surcharge and hotel room, rental car and food and beverage taxes. Former team owner and US Senator Herb Kohl contributed $100 million to the arena. The Bucks owners, led by Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan, were required to come up with the rest as well as cover any cost overruns.

The arena will owned by the Wisconsin Center District and leased to the Bucks initially with a 30-year lease. The Marquette Golden Eagles will also play in the facility.

The $40 million training facility and clinic, as well as the Live Block development are being privately financed by the team’s development arm, Head of the Herd, and are not reflected in the $524 million cost.

A ground breaking for the project was held on June 18th. The arena is scheduled to open in October 2018 with the likely (hopefully) renamed Live Block entertainment component. The new training facility will open a year earlier in August 2017.

Even when all that’s done, don’t expect cranes to disappear from the site. The term sheet between the Bucks and city requires the team to demolish the BMO Harris Bradley Center within 12 months of finishing construction on the arena. The Bucks also have more long-term clawback provisions in their deal with the state and county that will require them to develop the remaining Park East land or risk forfeiting it.

One bit of arena-related news that hasn’t developed as expected is the apartment building that is planned along N. 6th St. During the zoning approval for the parking structure, Bucks president Peter Feigin noted the Bucks would like the privately-financed apartment building to be constructed simultaneously with the new parking garage. The apartment building is intended to mask the garage and will be built immediately west of the new structure. Should that project ultimately materialize it will require additional design approval from the city; until then the western side of the garage is planned to include a few minimal design treatments.

The entire arena development is expected to eventually encompass 27 acres, primarily made up of land made available by the 2003 demolition of the Park East Freeway spur.


21 thoughts on “Friday Photos: Arena Rises from Frozen Tundra”

  1. Danny says:

    Merry X-mas to the billionaires whose place of business WE are paying for. Good job selling us out, Mr. Mayor and Alder-people.

  2. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    While this is interesting toy, for the downtowners, crime is rising, education is going downhill, heroin epidemic is horrible, plus many more problems.

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    How many people from the suburbs attend Bucks home games WCD? A lot. People from WOW counties go to tons of Bucks games every year. Are you saying no city in America should have nice things unless every problem is solved to your satisfaction?

  4. John says:

    Many cities manage to do a much better job at doing both.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    And many cities don’t, and either way WCD is arguing that nothing should happen in Milwaukee unless it directly and exclusively addresses schools, crime, or heroin (which is at least as much of a suburban and rural problem).

  6. John says:

    I didn’t read that in his comment.

  7. Vincent Hanna says:

    Have you been here long John? I have. He’s been saying it for a long time now. Milwaukee shouldn’t do anything until it solves those three issues. He’s a broken record, and a lunatic.

  8. I was about to commend Jeramey here for his commitment to fact-based journalism, as exhibited in this story, when the first comment I encountered was from …

  9. Ryan N says:

    I think WCD should be forced to pay 80% of his earned income on housing and then be told to work harder and it will all be ok.

  10. Virginia says:

    Yes, Milwaukee County is just one of the many metro areas that pour mega-millions into subsidizing sports complexes that virtually all economists agree provide no net economic benefit (which our alders acknowledged). However, Milwaukee also gave team owners a whole lot of free publicly-owned land to exploit. In contrast, Boston is selling a city-owned lot with a vacant parking garage for $153 million.

    Park East land was well on the path to redevelopment at the pace that Mayor Norquist and Peter Park had predicted. It started east and moved westward (even despite the Great Recession). Getting fair-market value for that land would have gone a long way toward filling county and city budget holes.

  11. Chuck says:

    I am from.our of state and honestly didn’t even know the Bucks were even still in the league. Big waste of money.

  12. Urban dweller says:

    WCD seems to forget that the plan that finally came about was pushed by the Walker cabal, because it doesn’t impose taxes on the wealthy, white, suburban constituents who are the only ones who will be able to afford to attend games.

  13. JJ says:

    Milwaukee is falling apart and yet the City is still giving away the house! Disgrace

  14. David says:

    I wonder how the comments in the section would have read if instead this Friday Photos was of a still vacant Park East Corridor and a soon to be vacant Bradley Center.

  15. Mohammed says:

    The nattering nabobs of negativity come out in full force. Let me ask you the following:

    1. Would you prefer the Bucks had left and MKE’s remaining teams played in a rapidly deteriorating arena that would need between $100-$150M in renovations to remain usable for another 10 years? Keep in mind, that would have been WCD money as well, and more than 50% of the arena public funds with no benefit.
    2. The Park East Development was picking up – but it has rapidly accelerated since the Bucks announcement. The clinic is a genius option, and the Live Block is certainly better than the BC parking lot. Plus – it connects the arena to OW 3rd Street. We have hotel proposals, the streetcar is going to run past the arena before turning northwards onto MLK. Do you honestly see a problem with taking acres of previously undeveloped or underdeveloped land off-line, while driving up demand in other areas of downtown?
    3. WCD, you are a pathetic troll who needs a life. Milwaukee is doing better than it has in decades, experiencing its first population increase in decades, and witnessing an unprecedented boom in construction. And yet, that start isnt enough for you? Either you want ALL or NOTHING. That’s not how it works.
    4. All you suburbanites complaining about funding billionaires…almost all arenas are done this way now. The BC was a one time gift that MKE was lucky to get. Moreover, I don’t see any of you complaining about the billions in road construction that traffic studies show MKE doesn’t NEED. Yet, you try to shoot down an alternative transit system that is certainly long past due even though you wouldn’t even have to pay for it unless you ride it. Even if you’re too stupid to realize it, Brookfield doesn’t exist without Milwaukee. So stop actively going against Milwaukee. You’d be amazed what a little collaboration can do…

  16. Ryan N says:

    @David Post 14, would go something like “stupid liberals are worthless and are letting this land sit fallow. If only Republicans were in charge it would have all been sold and have huge highrises built already. Better yet, we shouldn’t have torn down the Park East, instead we should have rebuilt and expanded it and we’d be much better off!”.

    So some nonsense like that.

  17. Mohammed says:

    Billion dollar highways = good. Million dollar transit system = bad. Suburban development = great. Urban development, particularly with Democratic leadership = bad. Does that sum it up pretty well too?

  18. Milwaukee Native says:

    The arena deal was very bipartisan. The Bucks just used the standard threaten-to-leave-town playbook. It worked like a charm. Bruce Murphy tried to tally the growing taxpayer tab and the “liberal” New York Times called foul.

    Mohammed, as for the very effective road-builders’ lobby, plenty of people on UM and elsewhere have complained about highway overbuilding. Politico published an an excellent analysis:

    Both cases are examples of how massive lobbying has paid off Big Time. Anyone advocating for other needs simply cannot compete.

  19. Mohammed says:

    Personally, I’d rather keep an NBA team which helps build Milwaukee’s international brand, spurs development and contributes to a more vibrant Milwaukee with some of my tax dollars. Maybe Arenas aren’t the best investment, but shoveling another $100M+ into the BC would be a disaster. I am more than okay with a couple of NY Billionaires getting a handout if it contributes to billions more in ancillary development which would have not happened otherwise. I am not okay with building roads for non-existent traffic problems at the expense of other more pressing infrastructure issues. If that’s hypocritical, so be it. But I really find it troubling how powerful the road construction lobby is in WI, because there are serious repurcussions that will last decades.

  20. Milwaukee Native says:

    Re: “I am more than okay with a couple of NY Billionaires getting a handout if it contributes to billions more in ancillary development which would have not happened otherwise.”

    Mohammed: Not even the Bucks’ exaggerated claims promised “billions more in ancillary development.” For taxpayers’ investment, it’s unlikely there will even be a break-even of $400 million plus other subsidies. Many people hatching that deal may not be around when the payoffs (or lack of them) are tallied. Or even when some new “entertainment” businesses open on 4th Street and maybe other ones nearby close. I just hope the giveaways to billionaires are done and that the city will actually see ANY actual returns beyond NBA “bragging rights”–such as they are.

  21. Mohammed says:

    Native, the Bucks are part of the Milwaukee brand. For right or wrong, the NBA is the MOST popular of American leagues internationally, and probably second only to the English Premier League globally. It’s hard to say what the actual value is, but having an NBA team is extremely important from a global branding standpoint. Having been throughout Europe, people knew of Milwaukee because of a) the Bucks first and foremost, b) Beer (and that’s only those who know PBR and Miller), and c) Jeffrey Dahmer (unfortunately). This arena is already yielding interest and the promise of substantial development. Heard the news about the 4th and WI lot? This is a big piece of the puzzle, a piece that has helped the odds of the MSO buying the Warner Theater or turning around GA.

    Given that the Park East has been an eyesore for a decade plus, the impact of turning this sea of vacant lots into valuable real estate is worth it alone. Driving by the BC, my wife and her friends actually asked if there had been a massive fire that destroyed that section of downtown…And the $400M, again I contrast this with highway construction which many experts say is completely unneeded and just filling the pockets of Walker’s cronies. If I’m wrong I’m wrong, but the tax impact per capita for the arena is pretty minimal. It’s perhaps a month’s worth of coffee – and again, more cost effective than simply rehabbing the BC which was the other option (and one that would only buy it 5-10 more years…).

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